Sophomore Gabriela Nguena Jones featured in Forbes Magazine

CEO of Teens Tutor Teens Gabriela Nguena Jones ‘24 was named one of Forbes’ ‘3 Teens Who Are Changing The World.’

Headshot of Gabriela Jones

Sophomore Gabriela Nguena Jones is making waves with her tutoring organization. (Photo courtesy of Gabriela Jones, Anne Rayner Photography)

Matthew Jones, Staff Writer

Many entrepreneurs dream of being mentioned in Forbes Magazine at some point in their career. Recently, sophomore Gabriela Nguena Jones did just that, being featured in the magazine at just age 19 for her years of work as the founder and CEO of Teens Tutor Teens

Teens Tutor Teens is a 501(c)3 non-governmental organization that aims to close the equity gap in education across America. More than 100 tutors have passed through the program to support this mission.

Originally, the organization achieved this goal by taking high-achieving kids in Jones’ hometown community and pairing them with kids who wished to be high achievers but needed some help. However, as time progressed, the organization’s model shifted.

“We still have the same mission, but now, we are not only teaching about education, but also allowing kids to be innovators and entrepreneurs,” Jones said. 

The introduction of this new model helped Teens Tutor Teens move to other states and gain some traction, since the organization moved from one-on-one tutoring to a more decentralized approach, allowing the organization to expand while still maintaining the quality of tutoring.  

Then, after COVID-19 forced many schools to shut down for the year, there was an influx of people looking to be a part of this organization, both as students and tutors. Many students who might have done well in-person struggled to learn new topics virtually, and thus needed tutors. On the flip side, many other students were also in search of remote opportunities for service, so they chose to tutor. 

“It wasn’t just an overnight thing. Forbes was on my bucket list. I personally have sent out emails and faced a lot of rejection. It took me more than two years,” Jones said. 

Jones has worked incredibly hard to achieve her place in the magazine, and as a result, Teens Tutor Teens has exploded in popularity, also garnering attention in other countries, such as Brazil.

However, success did not come easily, as she “had to do a lot of work on [her] own to push out the agenda of education,” Jones said. To cultivate this success, she has since found support in her executive board. With their help, Jones found it easier to juggle being a CEO and a Vanderbilt student concurrently, which is no easy task.

Sumana Hiremath currently serves as the Chief Human Resources Manager for Teens Tutor Teens. Originally, she worked as a tutor, but after her passion led her to establish the California chapter of Teens Tutor Teens, she was promoted to her current position this past summer. 

“It’s a rewarding experience due to our commitment to the benefit of the community and the knowledge gained in the process,” Hiremath said. “I found it comforting that the purpose of this organization aligned with my interests of teaching kids directly by making use of fun games, software, ideas, colors, and images.”

Bailey Merlino, another member of Jones’ executive board, serves as the Chief Marketing Officer. Before Teens Tutor Teens, Merlino had been tutoring for a while on her own, but gratefully accepted her invitation to the organization because it enabled her to “help a wider range of people.” She said she is incredibly grateful for everything the organization has done for her.

“[Teens Tutor Teens] has taught me so much about how to present myself, how to reach out to the media, and how to solidify a deal when you feel like you have the lower hand,” Merlino said. “I never dreamed of being a student of business, but now I feel more confident in my marketing and leadership opportunities than I ever could’ve dreamed. I could not be more excited to see where this newfound love takes me.”

Samarth Keerthivasan is the Chief Operating Officer. Keerthivasan was first the president of the Connecticut chapter for a full year before moving up the ranks to become the COO of the entire organization. His involvement was integral to the success of the Connecticut chapter. 

“In order for the Connecticut chapter to accumulate hundreds of hours of service, which has now been exceeded, I needed to do three things: stay organized, plan properly, and execute plans well,” Keerthivasan said. “Now I help all of the chapters stay organized. My role as a president helped me set up the Google Classroom system for each of the chapters, and led to the successful creation of multiple chapter classrooms, all of which have the same materials, topics, and assignments.”

Along with her executive board, Jones is also thankful for her grandmothers, Elise and Veronique. She attributes much of her inspiration to start this organization to the two of them.

“Those two women did not even get their high school diplomas, yet they have two kids who garnered degrees [and] doctorates. My grandmothers have done a lot to inspire me towards education.” Jones said.

More information on Teens Tutor Teens is available from Forbes or on the Teens Tutor Teens website.